Paris was better than I expected or hoped for. Though on my sister's travel radar for years, Paris never really interested me that much. I don't really know why, and if it hadn't been for the flight availability, I would never have thought about visiting. My eyes were set on Southern France, Prague, Croatia or Greece, all of which I unfortunately couldn't fit in. I certainly don't regret the choice now. Paris had sooooo much to see and so much to choose from. Yes, it was a little on the expensive side, but it offered an abundance of historical museums, churches and landmarks to visit giving me plenty to do in my short time there. Highlights for me were the Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower, and Louvre. Yes, cliche and probably typical answers. But there's a reason they're so popular. They're outstanding.
Tours was nice, and I liked being in a smaller city, but if I were to go back, I'd give myself a few days and I'd rent a car. The chateaus are very spread out and each is unique enough that I'd want to see the different designs so I'd need to go at my own pace and not that of a tour. Pompeii was a definite highlight and a must-see if you're in the Rome area. You can definitely make it a half-day trip, but I'd allow myself the entire day to travel from Rome, see and explore the entire place, and return back. Maybe I'd give it two days and spend the 2nd climbing Mt. Vesuvius.
Rome had plenty to do to fill up two days and I think I certainly covered most of it. I didn't feel rushed which was nice but If I had one more day, I would have gone to the Borghese Museum and maybe spent a little more time in the Vatican and St. Peter's as well as giving myself more time to explore Palantine Hill. But other than that I have no regrets about things I wish I'd seen. And even a year later, I still think the Capuchin Monk Crypt was one of the coolest things ever in Rome...and in Europe.
I didn't quite realize until I was there that I'd planned much of my Italian experience in Tuscany, but because I was to rely on trains and public transportation, I purposely chose large cities rather than smaller ones. So Rome, Florence and Venice immediately shot to the top of the list. Siena ended up being a "transition" city, and though the first part of my day there was awful, the view at the top of the Duomo complex more than made up for it. Rolling hills...the wind in my hair...I'm such a cliche. Florence gave me "David" so no matter how shitty the rest could have been (it wasn't, but IF it'd been) "David" more than made up for it. I don't know if I've ever seen a more perfect piece of art. Venice was such a change from Tuscany and it really felt like a completely different culture. While the other cities felt foreign because they had this essence of being "old" and "classic," Venice was it's own little world...a water planet according to Anne and I. And I loved every minute of it. Venice was beautiful, yes...but overall it was just really, really cool.
Munich was a great change of pace from both France and Italy. There was such a different cultural feeling to it that I didn't feel when transitioning from France to Italy. Yes, Italy was different from France, but Munich really gave me this "look you're in a new place" kinda feel. The Bavarian architecture with its onion domes and more streamline designs was quite different from that of Venice, Tuscany or Paris. I don't know the correct terminology for architecture, but visually you could see, and even feel, the difference. My visit to Dachau, though very sad, was a great learning experience. There are many concentration camps open throughout Europe but by finding one in my "path" of travel, I lucked out. I definitely think you should try and visit at least one throughout your lifetime since they are such an iconic piece of history and a great visual as to why an atrocity like the Holocaust should never happen again.
I don't want to assign beauty, as each and every city was gorgeous in its own way, but Innsbruck would take the crown in a fight. The snow-capped mountains surrounding this small, Alpine city makes for a picture perfect vacation spot. Not to mention the kindness of the Hotel Weiss Kruez's staff. Everything about my single day there was perfect. If the weather had been worse, my opinion would probably be different, but the sun was out and shining gloriously!
Salzburg...oh Salzburg. You had the crappy weather, yet you still got me to fall in love. What a classic, endearing place. It's with me every day, and not just cause my panoramic poster hangs above my closet so I get to look at it all the time. I got to live out a childhood dream of living The Sound of Music and every time I watch it now, I think of being there and that excitement I felt. Salzburg is somewhere I would return to in a heartbeat. The lakes region and the surrounding mountains would be a terrific place to spend a week exploring.
Finally, there was Vienna. A gorgeous city that doesn't need much more discussion from me. Overall, I really, really loved my adventure in Europe. I'm the kind of person that wants to see and do everything, all dependent on cost of course, so it was ridiculously hard trying to figure out my itinerary because I wanted to go everywhere in Europe. I barely scratched the surface of my "to do" list. I think I need at least a year and a completely disposable income next time. But with what I did see and experience, I would never give that up. I saw history and iconic landmarks...places where I could have easily spent the entire day staring at their amazingness. There's not much more I can think of to say, but I will leave you with the quote below. My blogging isn't over, but my European recollections have come to an end.
the rewards of the journey far outweigh
the risk of leaving the harbor - unknown